The Pre-Budget Seminar was held at the University of Central Punjab under the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences auspices. The event was attended by professionals from various fields, including Mr Abdullah Khan Sumbal, Mr Tanvir Ashraf Kaira, Dr Tasneem Zafar, and Mr Rehman Aziz Chann. The discussion began with Dr Tasneem Zafer addressing the essential predicament of insufficient revenues and high fiscal debt. She enunciated that economic success cannot be promised unless the growth is inclusive and contains the trickle-down effect. The spur in development needs to reach out to all the levels and sectors of the economy to achieve prosperity. A growth model that facilitates only the elite and business class will only increase income inequality and poverty. In addition, she acquainted students with the global and exogenous factors contributing to inflation.
Furthermore, she cited that plummeting value of the rupee and rising import bills are the reasons for the current account deficit. At last, she concluded that Pakistan needs to develop long-term growth strategies, but because of its meagre budget and poor governance, the development projects always run out of finances. Fiscal deficit always results in austerity, and austerity is a curse for a country like Pakistan.
Mr Abdullah Khan Sumbal shed some light on the role of academics in policymaking. He addressed the grievances of the students, who lamented the lack of academic research in fiscal policy. He ensured that the planning and development committee would be working closely with the universities and research institutes like PIDE in the future. However, the reform process is deliberately hijacked and sabotaged by bureaucratic manoeuvres.
Mr Rehman Aziz gave beneficial insights on ways to bolster trade and commerce. He highlighted the incompetence of firms receiving a large number of government subsidies. He talked about the promotion of SMEs, selective intervention, and government subsidies for pro-job creating sectors of the economy. He claimed a dichotomy between the provincial and federal governments on power-sharing. The local government has deliberately left loopholes in agriculture taxation. Also, he mentioned the provincial government’s incapacity to undertake the tasks hitherto under federal control. He asserted that the tax base needs to be widened by increasing the number of taxpayers instead of overburdening the existing taxpayers. To increase production and long-term growth, he added, the government should prevent the import of consumer-oriented goods and increase the sense of capital goods with minimum tariffs to become self-sufficient.
At last, Mr Tanveer Ashraf was questioned about the complex structure and complicated anti-growth tax codes and the hampered growth. The finance bill contains a complex system that a parliamentarian and even an economist can not read. However, we have every conceivable reform available to improve the existing tax structure, but academia is not fully incorporated. The initial tax structure is fragmented, leading to loopholes that facilitate particular beneficiaries like elite and business echelons from SROs and exemptions. The panacea to this problem is that we need to have a more open debate and criticism over the finance bill to eliminate the bizarre complexities that hinder growth.
Students and faculty members well attended the event. In the end, Pro-Rector Dr Nassar Ikram gave the concluding remarks and presented the souvenirs to the speakers.